The first Volkswagen Golf was introduced in 1974 as the successor to the Beetle. It was a radical departure from the previous Volkswagen approach of air-cooled rear engines. While the Golf surely wasn’t the first front-wheel drive car (the Mini used the concept much earlier) or car with rear hatch (likewise for the Renault R4), it nevertheless set a benchmark, probably because it was bigger than earlier offerings and thus was the first front-wheel-drive hatchback that was large enough to serve as family car.
It was initially available with a 50 HP 1.1l and 70 HP 1.5l four-cylinder. In 1976, a Diesel model and the 110 HP 1.6l GTI was introduced. 1978 saw a facelift with new bumpers and improved steel quality. In 1980, new larger tail lights and a new dash were added. The GTI’s engine displacement was increased to 1.8l in 1982. In 1983, the successor Golf II was announced.
While the 70 HP model was considered sporty at the time (certainly true when compared to a 44 HP Beetle), only the GTI can be considered sporty by modern standards. Wikipedia lists 10s as 0-100kph time for the 1.6l model, which I think is a bit pessimistic for a car of around 850kg. I have never driven a Golf I GTI, but I have been told that they feel very lightweight and nimble and provide lots of driving pleasure.
The GTI is the original hot hatch, and as such an icon that is sure to further increase in price. Reliable technology result in a car that is cheap to run.
If you want true sports car performance, look elsewhere. The availability of original true GTIs is limited, and GTI-specific parts are difficult to find.
An original white GTI, 1.6l or 1.8l doesn’t really matter.